Citi Field set for its World Series moment, Mets host Royals
NEW YORK (AP) A few hundred feet from Citi Field, in a vast parking lot, there is a bronze marker commemorating the location of the pitcher's rubber at Shea Stadium, the same spot where Jesse Orosco joyously flung his glove into the air after the final out of the Mets' amazing 1986 World Series comeback.
Now following seven mostly miserable seasons in their new home, the Mets hope to finally add another iconic moment to their postseason history.
Welcome to the World Series, Citi Field.
Opened in 2009, the $800 million modern ballpark built on nostalgia for New York baseball will become the 56th stadium to host a Fall Classic, STATS said, when Mets rookie Noah Syndergaard throws the first pitch of Game 3 against the Kansas City Royals on Friday night.
''Coming back home is a big thing for us,'' Syndergaard said Thursday, ''having the Mets faithful behind us and the greatest fans in baseball.''
With perhaps Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Jimmy Kimmel among the 45,000-plus fans who will pack the brick and wrought-iron facility by windy Flushing Bay in Queens, the Mets hope to mimic that `86 club and rally from a 2-0 deficit in the best-of-seven series.
They have to win two of three games on their home turf to send the matchup back to Kansas City.
Filled with all the amenities and distractions of new stadiums, Citi Field still got off to a slow start with their fans. The Mets owners - the Wilpon family - designed the park as an homage to the Brooklyn Dodgers' Ebbets Field and the New York Giants' Polo Grounds - the Mets first home before moving to Shea Stadium in 1964. There's even a Jackie Robinson rotunda that mimics Ebbets' facade and dark green seats and outfield wall.
After fans criticized the team for not acknowledging its history, banners were hung around the concourses honoring former players. A year later, the Mets opened a team Hall of Fame.
When the fences were brought in for the 2012 season, the outfield padding was changed to blue with an orange stripe running across the top. The alteration also took out of play some of the quirky wall angles that would send balls caroming off in odd directions.
''It's definitely a big field,'' Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said Thursday at the park. ''I think the wind is a little tricky here. I remember we came here one day and the balls were flying pretty good and the next day balls really weren't going really anywhere.''
Shining moments on the field have been few for the Mets since moving in. Johan Santana pitched the franchise's first no-hitter in 2012, but the team missed out on the playoffs every year until 2105.
Attendance tumbled after a surge in `09, but this year's team led by a stable of young aces drew more than 2.5 million on its way to the club's first division title since 2006.
New York hosted the 2013 All-Star Game, drawing 45,186 fans, the largest crowd ever at Citi Field. The Mets are hoping to top that this weekend.
World Series banners are flying on posts in the parking lot, extra seats for dignitaries were added behind home plate, and Major League Baseball logo for the World Series is painted in front of each dugout. Hospitality tents are up and a TV network's booth was rising Thursday next to the Home Run Apple from Shea Stadium that's on display in the main plaza outside the Jackie Robinson Rotunda.
It's Citi Field's moment. Here are a few things to know about the ballpark:
OVER THE FENCES
A pitcher's park by design, the team brought in the fences - twice. First for the 2012 season - after only a paltry 108 homers were hit in `11 - and then ahead of this year. Right-center field is not so intimidating anymore at 380 feet, down from an original 415 feet. But it's still 408 to straightaway center field and there is plenty of room for Kansas City's Lorenzo Cain and New York's Juan Lagares to track down flyballs in the quirky outfield.
This season there were 164 homers at Citi Field, good enough to put it in the middle of the pack tied for 16th in the majors. Kauffman Stadium was 25th with 130.
Fun fact: Despite all the talk of the stadium being pitcher friendly, San Diego's Jody Gerut homered as the first official batter at the ballpark.
The Mets have one of the best rosters of concessions at any ballpark around baseball. A short walk over the Shea Bridge beyond center field, fans can get burgers, tacos or barbecue from famed restaurateur Danny Meyer, or Pat LaFrieda's steak sandwich. Two Boots pizza and fish sandwiches from chef Dave Pasternack are nearby. For those fans with access to the Caesars Club, the exclusive Italian eatery Rao's serves pasta dishes and tangy chicken cacciatore sandwiches. Mama's of Corona offers Italian heroes and cannoli.
The easiest way to get to Citi Field is either by the 7 subway, an approximately 30-minute, elevated ride through Queens from Times Square. The Long Island Railroad also stops at Mets-Willets Point on a limited schedule and takes 16 minutes from Penn Station. Unlike Shea, fans can't look into the ballpark from the subway platform.